20-year-old horse put down after WEG endurance

  • A 20-year-old horse competing in the World Equestrian Games (WEG) Meydan-sponsored endurance has been put down, the FEI has confirmed.

    Anglo-Arab gelding Barack Obama, ridden by New Zealand’s Jenny Champion, was transported back from the second loop of the 120km ride on Wednesday (12 September) and treated for kidney problems at Tryon International Equestrian Center.

    He was later transferred to Tryon Equine Hospital but his owner Mark Round, after consultation with Jenny and vets, yesterday (14 September) decided to put the horse down.

    Barack Obama had been competing in international endurance events for nine years and had 16 FEI event starts, including six 160-kilometre rides. Jenny Champion took over the ride on the horse in 2014 and together the partnership had won six times.

    Equestrian Sport NZ high performance director Sarah Dalziell-Clout said the team was devastated by the loss.

    “Jenny and her team prepared the horse exceptionally,” she said. “As with all New Zealand horses at WEG, Barack was under the best of care for more than 18 months prior to the Games to ensure he was at optimum health.

    “He passed a comprehensive vet test prior to leaving NZ and was in good health leading into the race, passing the first two vet checks at the competition. Leading into the race the team vet Nick Page was confident the horse was race-ready.”

    Mrs Dalziell-Clout said Jenny felt Barack was not right and pulled up immediately, well before the race was cancelled, to seek veterinary assistance.

    “Our thoughts are with Mark, Jenny, Shane and John, Kirstine and the entire endurance community in NZ who will be devastated by the news,” she said, adding that the team thanked the on-site vets and those at the equine hospital for their “exceptional” care and advice.

    In accordance with FEI rules, a post mortem will be conducted and samples taken from the horse.

     Cancellation reaction

    IN a press conference at Tryon yesterday, FEI president Ingmar de Vos said an “immediate” investigation will be carried out into the misdirection of some riders that led to the endurance competition’s being restarted.

    He said the subsequent cancellation of the ride was a “very difficult” decision to make, citing the riders’ and horses’ training and preparation for the event but adding that he understood competitors’ frustration.

    “But officials have saved our sport,” he said. “They put horse welfare first and this is our priority. We saw scientific data coming in and clinical signs at vet gate, called an emergency meeting with the ground jury, technical delegate, vet and organisers; the decision to stop the ride was in the interests of our sport and welfare.”

    An appeal lodged by the Spanish team was dealt with by a three-person committee, which upheld the ground jury’s decision that no medals will be presented.

    Thomas Timmons, president of the endurance veterinary commission, said the heat and humidity and their effects on the horses made it “very clear it was time to stop the competition”.

    “We knew full well what the consequences would be but welfare was number one [priority] without question,” he added.

    “At the vet gate where the stop was put in place, more than 53 horses were having metabolic problems; conditions were extreme enough you have to consider the risk and the risk was not worth it.”

    FEI vet director Goran Akerstrom added that 53 horses were treated in the vet clinic, 52 for metabolic issues. Of these, 32 needed intravenous fluids and two suffered minor colic but recovered quickly.

    Continues below…

    Saudi rider Tarek Taher said “multiple” mistakes were made and all involved must learn from them and “create a vision of what we have to do in future”. He said he was following an orange sign to the right during the ride and ignored the person, who “did not look like an FEI steward”, telling him to turn left.

    “Why don’t we try to identify this guy?” he asked.

    Mr De Vos answered: “I agree, we need to find solutions. We have already organised some conferences to have this communication and work together.”

    Horse & Hound has two journalists and a photographer in Tryon for WEG. Keep up to date with all the news on horseandhound.co.uk and in the magazine issues dated 20 and 27 September.

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